Summary: God’s perfect plan for the world was destroyed because the man and woman failed to trust him to do what he said he’d do and as a result all their relationships were broken.
One of the most exquisite pieces of sculpture created by the great artist, Michelangelo, was the sculpture called the Pieta. It depicts Mary holding a dead Christ in her arms after he was taken down from the cross. Michelangelo carved it from a single slab of marble in less than two years. It stood on open display in St Peter’s in Rome for many years until in 1972, a mad Australian Geologist named Laszlo Toth took to it with a hammer. He managed to break off the Virgin’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose, and chipped one of her eyelids before being stopped. As a result this beautiful work of art appeared to be damaged beyond saving. You can imagine how people were feeling as they surveyed the damage. How could such a beautiful creation be so badly damaged by someone for no apparent reason? What are we going to do with it? How could it ever be restored to its original glory?
The first two chapters of Genesis both end on the same note: 1:31: "God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." Gen 2:24-25: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed." The world that God had made was a creation far more beautiful than the Pieta. It’s perfection extended to every conceivable dimension. As we saw last week the man and the woman were in perfect harmony with each other, with the world around them and, most importantly, with God. And so it might have remained, except that, into this perfect creation, rebellion is about to enter. Well, in fact rebellion has already begun in the spiritual realms.
The serpent here isn’t your ordinary garden variety snake. I understand from what some people say that snakes have an unfair reputation. That in fact they’re much nicer animals than some people think. Well, I’m willing to accept that that’s a possibility, but in this case the serpent is something different. Here, the serpent is the mouthpiece for Satan, sent to tempt the man and woman to disobey God. And we’re told he was very subtle, very crafty, in the way he went about it.
His aim is to break up this happy situation, to turn the man and woman away from their obedience, their allegiance to God. But look at how he does it. He doesn’t approach the issue front on. He doesn’t just say, "Forget God, come with me and have some fun." That’s what he often says to people today. But here it’s much more subtle. He begins by asking a question that’s intended to lead the woman away from the truth. It’s what’s called, in political circles, push-polling. Asking a question that’s worded in such a way that it makes you think along a certain line. "He said to the woman, ’Did God say, "You shall not eat from any tree in the garden"?’" The implication of the question is that God is being harsh, unkind, keeping good things away from them. It’s one of the techniques that’s used in advertising all the time. Trying to make you think that you’re missing out, that the service you’re getting or the consumer good that you own already is a bit out of date, or a bit short on features, due to be replaced with something that the cool people are using or wearing, or driving.
The devil doesn’t lie at this point, notice. A lie would be to easy to recognise. Rather he merely misdirects. Pushes the woman to wonder whether God can be trusted.
Her answer is a good one up to a point; except that she adds to God’s command. Can you see the bit she adds in? "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, ’You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’" This is a classic bit of religious development. God has made one rule, but she or her husband have added in another. God says you mustn’t eat of it. They’ve added "you must not touch it." Like many religious rules, it makes good sense: if you don’t touch it you can’t eat it. But touching it wasn’t part of the rule.
This week is a good time to be thinking about this sort of thing, because we’ve just entered the season of lent and what have people been talking about all week? What are you giving up for lent? I even read that KFC has a special fish meal on offer for lent. Now can I just say that I did a search in my Bible program and lent is found three times in the Bible and every time it has to do with borrowing something. Not once does it mention fasting, or giving up things for 7 weeks while we think about Easter. It especially doesn’t mention eating fish, though it’s true that the disciples and Jesus ate fish - but then that was after the resurrection, not before Good Friday.